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Today's News

MS-13 gang members convicted

Organized threats to the security of the homeland are not necessarily all motivated by religious zealotry or extremist ideology.

Sometimes the threat is simply about money and turf, and the danger to citizens can involve something as innocent as the color of shirts they’re wearing.

Six members of a notorious gang, called La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, were convicted last week by a jury in U.S. District Court in Charlotte, N.C., of criminal charges that include racketeering, murder (in one case, because a man was wearing a red shirt), attempted murder, assault, cocaine trafficking and numerous related federal firearms offenses, the Department of Justice reports.

The gang, which originated in the slums of El Salvador before moving north to Los Angeles and spreading across the U.S. from there, is arguably more powerful and dangerous than the better-known Bloods and Crips.

The six gang members were charged with racketeering, murder, drug and firearms violations. They are Julio Cesar Rosales Lopez, 24, of Guilford County, NC; and, Juan Gilberto Villalobos, 42; Elvin Pastor Fernandez Gradis, 34; Carlos Roberto Figeroa-Pineda, 26; Johnny Elias Gonzalez, 21; and Santos Anibal Caballero Fernandez, 24, all of Charlotte.

All six were convicted of conspiring to engage in a racketeering enterprise in the Western District of North Carolina, El Salvador and elsewhere.

According to DoJ, evidence proved that MS-13 robbed and extorted, obstructed justice, tampered with witnesses, conspired to distribute cocaine and marijuana, and conspired to commit murder.

MS-13 racketeering activities included the murders of four people, attempted murder, assaults and threats of violence, according to DoJ, which calls the gang a “national and international criminal enterprise.”

The defendants face a variety of possible sentences based on their convictions, including for some, life in prison. In addition to the six defendants convicted last week, 19 other co-defendants have pleaded guilty to the racketeering charges in the indictment. One defendant remains in custody in El Salvador.

Altegrity launches ARI, which acquires CRI

William Bratton

Altegrity, Inc., the holding company formerly known as USIS, has launched Altegrity Risk International (ARI), a New York City-based new business that will focus on global risk mitigation and security solutions.


The same day this week that Altegrity announced the formation of ARI, ARI in turn announced the acquisition of Washington, DC-based Corporate Risk International (CRI), an established business intelligence and risk management firm. Terms of that transaction were not disclosed.

ARI will be headed by Bill Bratton, the former chief of both the Los Angeles and New York City police departments, who becomes chairman, and Michael Beber, who becomes president and CEO.

Altegrity says that ARI’s multidisciplinary team from the fields of investigations, forensics, data intelligence, financial technology, and security / policing will provide ARI clients with specialized solutions to identify, analyze, prevent, and remediate the entire range of financial, legal / regulatory, reputational and security risks.

ARI describes CRI as a specialist in U.S. and international due diligence and investigative projects, white collar crime investigations, business intelligence gathering, undercover investigative operations, and anti-money laundering analyses. The company also conducts security and risk assessment surveys and provides crisis management and executive protection services.

“Risk has always been a part of our professional and personal lives, but because of the interconnected, global environment in which we live today, risk and security concerns have taken an unfortunate, costly, and at times deadly center stage,” Mike Cherkasky, Altegrity CEO, said in a statement announcing the formation of ARI. “We created Altegrity Risk International to provide a quicker, more thorough and inclusive, as well as cost-effective way to provide businesses and organizations with the information and expertise they need to reduce risk and ensure more secure and successful organizations.”

Altegrity is the holding company for HireRight and Explore Information Services, as well as USIS and ARI.

HDT Engineered Technologies wins contract with Canadian Dept. of National Defence

Solon, OH-based HDT Engineered Technologies (HDT) reports that it has won the Collective Protection (ColPro) shelter systems contract with the Canadian Department of National Defence (DND).
HDT will provide DND 13 transportable ColPro shelter systems protected against CBRN threats.

HDT calls its shelter system a complete turnkey solution that will increase the Canadian Forces response capability, particularly in austere environments, in support of domestic, NATO, United Nations and other coalition operations.

The deal also includes expeditionary products, training, logistical services, and repair / overhaul support to assist the DND. Financial terms were not announced.


Porta-King offers prefabricated security structures in response to CFATS and HR 2868

St. Louis, MO-based Porta-King has expanded its line of prefabricated structures to meet the enhanced security requirements for chemical and water facilities as mandated in House Bill HR 2868 and the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS).

House Bill HR 2868 calls for upgraded security to protect sensitive facilities against acts of terrorism.

The company, a specialist in custom-design prefabricated construction, offers structures such as fixed guard booths, mobile trailer security stations, turnstile shelters and guard towers.

The company notes that it also manufactures a line of ballistics-rated prefabricated structures that include walls, windows and doors constructed with bullet resistant materials that meet the Underwrites Laboratory (UL) 752 Level ballistic standard and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) IV ballistic standard.

“In response to CFATS and HR 2868, we are seeing a new need for security structures at facilities around the country such as waste water treatment facilities, public water systems and within the liquid petroleum industry” Gregg Pearlstone, Porta-King vice president, said in a statement.

Harris Corp. acquires tech assets from OSI Geospatial

Rochester, NY-based Harris Corp., the communications and information technology company, has acquired the technology assets of OSI Geospatial Inc.'s land-based, situational awareness business, the company reports.  

These technologies will enhance the company's capabilities in delivering assured communications systems and applications for defense and public safety customers, according to Harris.

With this acquisition, Harris says, it gains software for capturing, viewing and disseminating strategic and tactical information to domestic and international defense and public safety customers.  

The company characterizes the situational awareness software as providing commanders and team members in the field with real-time information, such as the location of deployed personnel; and notes that the software applications are capable of being embedded into both tactical and public safety radios, as well as electronic devices such as laptop computers.  

As part of the transaction, Harris is hiring the nine employees who engineered the land-based, situational awareness system technology.

Intelligence chief sees dire threats to nation’s cyber-security

Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair appeared before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on February 2 and delivered one of the most dire warnings about the nation’s vulnerability to cyber-attacks ever heard on Capitol Hill.

“Malicious cyber activity is occurring on an unprecedented scale with extraordinary sophistication,” said Blair, in his prepared testimony. “While both the threats and technologies associated with cyberspace are dynamic, the existing balance in network technology favors malicious actors, and is likely to continue to do so for the foreseeable future.”

Cyber-adversaries are stealing sensitive information from government and private sector networks on a daily basis, and they have managed to enter exploited networks without authorization and without their presence even being detected, he added.

“We cannot be certain that our cyberspace infrastructure will remain available and reliable during a time of crisis,” Blair told the assembled senators.

He rattled off the mayhem these cyber-criminals can create, including illicit intelligence collection, intellectual property theft, disruption of computer networks, and cyber-facilitated bank and credit card fraud.

“The cyber criminal sector in particular has displayed remarkable technical innovation with an agility presently exceeding the response capability of network defenders,” explained Blair, in his extraordinarily grim assessment.

Blair named two global trends within the information technology field that he believes have increased the nation’s cyber-vulnerabilities. The first, which he called “network convergence,” involves the merging of distinct voice and data technologies to the point where virtually all communications – such as voice, fax, video, computers, and the control of critical infrastructure facilities with SCADA devices – are transported over a common network. This convergence amplifies the opportunities for cyber-disruptions, said Blair.

The second trend, which he called “channel consolidation.” involves the concentration of personal data about individual citizens by various service providers through e-mails, instant messages, Internet search engines, social networks and geographic location services on mobile communication devices. This consolidated data is ripe for exploitation, said Blair.

Blair enumerated some steps the Intelligence Community, which he heads, has been taking to thwart this menacing cyber-threat. He said he had established an “integrated and agile intelligence team,” which would develop effective defensive strategies. He noted that last summer, he charged his new National Counterintelligence Executive with creating a cyber-directorate within his office that would evaluate foreign intelligence threat warnings and focus on insider threats that might harm the U.S. Government.

In addition, Blair pledged to continue to report progress made through the implementation of the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI).

He also told the senators that his Cyber Task Force, which produces quarterly reports on the government-wide cyber-security efforts, needs “full funding” in order to “keep close to pace with our adversaries.”

In his wide-ranging 47-page testimony, Blair also presented a troubling snapshot of many of the other threats to U.S. national security.

Personnel issues for armed contractors protecting weapons-grade nuclear material, says GAO

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has examined the Department of Energy’s (DoE) efforts protect sites with weapons grade nuclear materials, called “special nuclear material (SNM), partly by “transforming” the sites' contractor-provided protective forces into a tactical response force (TRF), with capabilities akin to the U.S. military.

How well is DoE doing?

The answer varies from SNM site to SNM site, according to GAO.

Contractors provide “armed security” at six sites that “store and process Category I SNM,” GAO notes. “DOE protective forces at each of these sites are covered under separate contracts and collective bargaining agreements between contractors and protective force unions. As a result, the management and compensation -- in terms of pay and benefits -- of protective forces vary.”

That variability means that some sites have already implemented such TRF requirements as increasing “move, shoot, and communicate” skills of protective units, others “do not plan to complete TRF implementation until the end of fiscal year 2011,” according to GAO.

In addition, says GAO, there are issues involving DoE efforts to “manage postretirement and pension liabilities for its contractors.” Those issues mean that some TRF members might not be able to continue their work until retirement age, GAO says.

One answer, which DoE rejects, according to GAO, is to “federalize” the TRF.

GAO’s bottom line, regardless of whether the forces are federalized or the current contractor system is kept in place, is that DoE should “address protective forces’ personnel system issues.”

Mandiant’s inaugural M-Trends report focuses on APT attacks

Washington, DC-based Mandiant, a provider of incident response and computer forensics services and solutions, has released its inaugural M-Trends report.

The 29-page report details, across a breadth of organizations, malware capabilities and techniques used by the Advanced Persistent Threat (APT).

Mandiant describes APT attacks as an “orchestrated deployment of sophisticated and perpetual attacks that have systematically compromised computer networks in the public and private sector for years. The APT hides in plain sight and avoids detection by making outbound connections using common network ports and services, providing remote access to critical infrastructure controls and sensitive information.”

The report includes a section on APT attack trending and correlation; illustrative case studies from government, defense industrial base and commercial environments; and what to expect if you are a victim of the APT.

According to the report, APTs “steal information to achieve economic, political and strategic advantage. But more importantly, they establish and maintain an occupying force in their target's environment, a force they can call on at any time. When the APT wants additional data from a target, they don't need to re-establish a presence. They simply call on their existing assets, locate, steal and exfiltrate the data they need.”

To download the complete report, go to http://www.mandiant.com/products/services/m-trends.

Two security industry vets join Paxton

Paxton Inc., the U.S. sales and marketing division of Paxton Ltd, the Brighton, UK-based manufacturer of access control systems, reports that two industry veterans have joined the company.

They are Gary Thornberg, who becomes national distribution and OEM manager, and Steve Midkiff, who becomes technical support engineer.

Thornberg has worked with such manufacturers as Security Door Controls, Honeywell and Access Hardware Sales Inc. His mission will be to increase existing OEM and distribution business, as well as bringing new partners to the company.

Midkiff spent 21 years at Sonitrol Corp., working in field engineering and technical support. At Paxton, he will deal with all sales, technical and repairs inquiries from U.S. distributors and installers.

Applied Technical Systems awarded $13 million Navy task order

Seattle, WA-based Applied Technical Systems (ATS) reports that it has been awarded a $13 million task order to design, build and manage the common digital sensor architecture (CDSA) core system for the U.S. Navy's Above Water Sensors program.

The competitively awarded three-year base, two-year option task order was awarded under the SeaPort-e contract vehicle, ATS says.

The company also notes that the CDSA program was initiated to improve operational efficiency and reduce total lifetime costs by establishing a common architecture and support process.

Under this task order, ATS will help the Navy achieve its objectives by providing the Naval Surface Weapons Center in Crane, IN, with engineering development models and a product data management framework for the CDSA core system.



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